Stasis

I feel like the last few months I’ve been in spiritual stasis, alternately drifting through short waves of interest and disillusionment. I’m waiting for something, but I’m not sure what that is. I want to be more passionate about my Savior, but I’m not sure how I can do that of my own accord. I have been taught that it is God who both wills and works in me (Phil 2:13), but whether because I don’t believe or am not obeying, I don’t see God working the passion in me that I desire.

My current situation in life has left me with a great deal of free time, but rather than utilizing that time for constructive endeavors, I so often just squander it in front of the television or browsing the internet. I like to say that I”m not passionate about watching tv, but for the amount of time I tend to spend on it, that is really not true. I have not reached the point where spending time in prayer or in the Word is really more desirable to me than vegging out on a video game.

The Church

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Church and her position, commission, and mode of operation in the story of time. This song has become one of my favorite hymns because every time I sing it, I can catch a glimpse of the Church as Jesus intended. It is the Church firmly rooted and fully dependent on the Holy Spirit, eagerly anticipating the renewing of creation at the coming wedding feast with the Son, and passionately seeking to glorify the Father in defending the poor and destitute.

I also heard an great sermon by Francis Chan called “Is This Really Church” in which he goes into detail about exegesis and eisegesis. Being the high and might Bible School graduate that I am, I felt very good about knowing what he was talking about already, but he took it a step further than I’d ever thought about and talked about exegetical living. Basically eisegesis is taking preconceived ideas, notions and norms and finding texts that support those norms outside of the context of the passage. It’s generally considered a bad thing. Exegesis is the opposite, where you come to a passage and without any preconceptions, say “What can I learn from this passage of scripture.”

When we think of the things that make a Church a church here in America, there are a few things that stand out. Worship Music (4 or 5 songs with some prayers by the Worship Director interspersed), followed by 20 to 30 minute sermon by the Pastor, then the offering, another song, and then everyone gets to leave. Of course, this all takes place in some big meeting space with auditorium style seating so that people don’t have to look at each other and breakout space so the kids can go with the Youth Director. But if we look look exegetically at the model for the church that is laid out in the New Testament, I think we’d come out with a vastly different picture.

The Church that the Bible talks about is one centered around a community loving one another, providing for each others needs and sharing the Gospel. It was about breaking bread together and taking communion regularly to remind each other of Christ’s sacrifice for us all. Can we really call it Church on Sunday when most of us find an inconspicuous place to sit, soak up some knowledge and bolt as soon as we’re excused?

Not that Sunday services aren’t good things, but we as the American church need to recognize that we are called to so much more than the 3 hours we put in on Sunday mornings. We’re called to administer our spiritual gifts to one another in communities that are interdependent.

The Lord’s Day

O Maker and Upholder of all things,

Day and night are thine; they are also

mine from thee –

the night to rid me of the cares of the day,

to refresh my weary body,

to renew my natural strength;

the day to summon me to new activities,

to give me opportunity to glorify thee,

to serve my generation,

to acquire knowledge, holiness, eternal life.

But one day above all days is made especially

for thy honour and my improvement;

The sabbath reminds me

of thy rest from creation,

of the resurrection of my Saviour,

of his entering into repose.

Thy house is mine,

but I am unworthy to meet thee there,

and am unfit for spiritual service.

When I enter it I come before thee as a sinner,

condemned by conscience and thy Word,

For I am still in the body and in the wilderness,

ignorant, weak, in danger,

and in need of thine aid.

But encouraged by thy all-sufficient grace

let me go to thy house with a lively hope

of meeting thee,

knowing that there thou wilt come to me

and give me peace.

My soul is drawn out to thee in longing desires

for thy presence in the sanctuary, at the table,

where all are entertained on a feast of

good things;

Let me before the broken elements,

emblems of thy dying love,

cry to thee with broken heart for grace

and forgiveness.

I long for that blissful communion of thy people

in thy eternal house in the perfect kingdom;

These are they that follow the Lamb;

May I be of their company!

The Valley of Vision

I Asked The Lord…

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace
Might more of His salvation know
And seek more earnestly His face

Twas He who taught me thus to pray
And He I trust has answered prayer
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair

I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And by His love’s constraining power
Subdue my sins and give me rest

Instead of this He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part

Yea more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast out my feelings, laid me low

Lord why is this, I trembling cried
Wilt Thou pursue thy worm to death?
“Tis in this way” The Lord replied
“I answer prayer for grace and faith”

“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou mayest seek thy all in me,
That thou mayest seek thy all in me.”

-John Newton

The Home of the Free

I went to church this past Sunday and was wary the moment I walked in and saw the stage lit up in red, white, and blue. The projectors had images of American flags waving in the breeze. The service began with an audio-visual presentation about American history and freedom.

I found it all a little upsetting. Since when did Christ’s Church pledge allegiance to America?

The pastor’s sermon focused on celebration and the importance of our celebrating the gifts and privileges that God gives us. In that respect, he wasn’t wrong. We are called to celebrate and bring others into the celebration with us, but why do we think American freedom is God’s gift?

In America, we are so quick to thank God for the freedoms and wealth that we enjoy, but why do we assume that these things are given to us by God? Of course God has allowed us to have these things, but that doesn’t mean it’s to our benefit. God allowed Hezekiah to live an extra 15 years to the great harm of the entire nation of Israel.

We say it is God’s blessing, but in all history, when has God ever chosen to use material wealth and religious freedom to expand His kingdom? Are American Christians somehow unique in the manner that God chooses to bless us? Is it so hard to see a correlation between the freedom and stagnation of the church in America and the persecution and explosive growth of the Chinese church?

The pastor seemed dismayed by the lack of celebration in the American church, and yet at the beginning of the service he gave thanks profusely for the freedom we had to celebrate. When has making something easier ever made it more meaningful or passionate? We so often don’t celebrate freedom because here in America, it’s free!

The New Job

So I haven’t even got my diploma in the mail and I have a job! It’s amazing to me that even in this less than ideal economy, I have the opportunity to work at a very good software development company.

I’ll be taking a position of software developer at Tyler Technologies, a relatively small software firm based in Tyler, Texas that specializes in applications for local government agencies. The team I’m working with is based out of Lakewood, Colorado.

Graduation


Graduation day is coming up this Sunday and since my last exam was on Tuesday, I have the rest of the week to do whatever I want. What do I choose to do? Work on a website, of course! I was encouraged by a Lifehacker post about online identity to work on establishing my online presence. It’s been an ongoing process since I took a seminar on personal branding a couple years ago, but I’m finally getting the time to work on it.

I’m going to be graduating with a double major in Information Science and Computer Science. They keep telling me that it’s a killer combination and I’ll have no trouble finding a job, but I guess when you go in with a passion for the public good and non-profit, the market gets a bit more limited. So I continue the pursuit of a position, and in the meantime, I’ll hopefully be able to hone my skills and develop my personal brand on this blog. Be on the lookout.

Hell

image via Flickr

I recently watched the movie “Requiem for a Dream”. It’s a powerful movie about the descent of four people into various drug addictions. The filming is very well done and I couldn’t help but feel like I was falling into the pit along with them. As I watched, I began to see that this movie is a perfect depiction of hell.

I’ve grown up with a view of hell as a place where God points his finger and sends all the naughty people so that, like some Promethean epic, they can be eternally torched and fileted by red devils and yet never die. But in the past few weeks, I’ve begun to see hell as, quite literally, addiction to that which never fully satisfies.

We recently had a guest speaker at RUF who was from (of all places) Duke University, and he gave a powerful sermon on hell by looking at the story in Luke about Lazarus and the Rich Man. It’s amazing to me that I can have heard this story a hundred times and even performed it in a production of Godspell, and yet never really comprehended the significance of it. The interaction between Abraham and the Rich Man is so telling about what hell is really like.

The first thing to notice is that while there is divine interaction on the part of Lazarus, the rich man dies, gets buried and is in hell. He didn’t get manhandled or sent there, it’s just where he went. And thing he says when he sees Abraham and Lazarus is not “Help get me out of here”, or, “I’ve been wrongly put here”, but simply “Send Lazarus to come and give me some relief.”

The rich man doesn’t even recognize he’s in hell! He thinks that he can still order Lazarus around and doesn’t see any reason why Lazarus shouldn’t come to him instead of him leaving and coming to them. Just like an addict, the rich man doesn’t want freedom from his drug of choice, just another fix to tide him over.

In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce, Lewis draws a picture of a heaven and hell where there’s a bus that will take anyone who would like to go from hell to heaven, yet surprisingly few people ever make that journey and even fewer stay. The Hell of the Great Divorce is an enormous, empty city who’s citizen, ever more fed up with encroaching neighbors, keep moving further and further away and deeper into themselves.

Humanity has a singular addiction to the drug of self. It is the reason that so many who take the bus ride to heaven decide to turn back, because Heaven requires one to quit self. Heaven is about Jesus Christ and Him alone, because He is more than sufficient. But many would rather get another fix of self and, like a druggie, take that needle and shoot it up as they watch everything they used to care about get burned up in the flames.

Freedom

Excerpt from Running With Scissors:

Freedom was what we had. Nobody told us when to go to bed. Nobody told us to do our homework. Nobody told us we couldn’t drink two six-pakcs of Budweiser and then throw up in the Maytag.
So why did we feel so trapped? Why did I feel like I had no options in my life when it seemed that options were the only thing I did have?
I could paint my room black. I could bleach my hair blond. Or use Krazy Kolor to dye it blue. When Natalie pierced my ear one night with a hypodermic needle nobody complained. My mother didn’t gasp and say, “What have you done to your ear?” She didn’t even notice.
Nobody ever told me what to do. When I was living with my mother and father, I could raise my mother’s blood pressure just by moving one of the cork coasters on the side table an inch. “Please,” she would say, “I have everything arranged the way I like it.” But at the Finch house, I could hack a hole through the ceiling in my closet to connect to Hope’s room upstairs and nobody cared. “You’re a free person with a free will,” Finch would say.
So why did I always feel so trapped?
I worried that my feeling of being belted into an electric chair was due to some sort of mental illness.
More than anything, I wanted to break free. But free from what? That was the problem. Because I didn’t know what I wanted to break free from, I was stuck.

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31,32

I have never heard someone who wasn’t a Christian speak in those terms before. Sometimes I think that the Bible only has relevance to us today because we as Christians force it to have relevance. That if we didn’t keep parading it around, it would somehow fade into obscurity. But people are, in fact, looking for true freedom and purpose and meaning, all of which the Bible directly addresses.
There’s a “pit preacher” at my school who will spend five to six hours a day in the hot sun telling passers-by that they are sinful and going to hell. Rarely does he venture beyond this platform of condemnation. I wonder how different his ministry would be if, instead of words of anger, he offered freedom and purpose. I don’t doubt he would still be seen by some as a blight on the campus, but perhaps he would find more fertile soil in the people who feel trapped and optionless.

“When the Holy Spirit comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment;” John 16:8

It is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict the world, not ours. I think if Christians in this nation were to stop trying to hammer morals into this country, we would definitely see it go to rot. But it is in rotting garbage that we find the best kind of fertilizer.

Lukewarm


I’ve been hammered with the idea of poverty for the past 10 weeks, and it’s still convicting to me. Don’t listen to this whole sermon if you want to continue living your secure and comfortable life, because he speaks some powerful truth’s that hit really close to home.

God strip away my security in anything that is not You.